In Press: FBRI's Ethridge focuses on cotton fiber quality in world market
Recently, Dean Ethridge, a research professor with Texas Tech's Department of Plant and Soil Science and managing director of the university's Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute, sat down with Beck Barnes, the editor of Cotton Grower magazine, to discuss the impact of U.S. farming's advancements in fiber quality. Here's a part of their conversation.
American cotton farmers have been extremely fortunate with respect to the advancements made in fiber quality they've enjoyed in recent years. Seed companies have placed an added emphasis on producing varieties that not only yield well, but also demonstrate superior strength, length and staple.
And these improvements have come at a time when fiber quality was becoming notably more valuable to the world market. That was no accident. As Dean Ethridge, managing director of Texas Tech's Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute pointed out, the rise of fiber quality that saved demand for U.S. cotton was the result of fundamental shifts in the global textile industry.
"Fiber quality has taken on a profile that it's never had before," Ethridge says, explaining that cotton has two different demand points "" the consumer and the manufacturer. The latter has played a major role in the rise of fiber quality.
It's difficult to overstate the impact China has had on this development. The ratification of the WTO in 1995, and the accession of China to full membership in 2001 have created a massive shift in global textile manufacturing. The WTO or World Trade Organization is a global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
Ethridge notes that during the same time frame, U.S. consumption of its own textile manufacturing went from an average level of 11 million bales, to an average of 3.5 million bales. Compounding matters is China's skyrocketing production of polyester. Since joining the WTO, Chinese production capacity of polyester has grown to roughly 70 percent of the global total. China alone now produces roughly one third more polyester annually than the entire world produces of cotton.
"As a result, polyester has become the cheapest fiber in the world," says Ethridge.
CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0908NM16 / Editor's Note: For a full text version of Beck Barnes' article in Cotton Grower magazine, go to http://www.cottongrower.com/cotton-news/product-news/how-fiber-quality-became-so-valuable/
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